Pakistan Aiding Hunt for Iranian Border Guards
Zaffar Abbas, BBC News:
Pakistan says it is working closely with Tehran to help locate nine Iranian border guards who have reportedly been abducted by a gang of criminals. Iran has claimed the guards, abducted in the south-east of the country, are now being held captive in Pakistan. READ MOREAsia Times reported that the group that captured the Iranian guards are associated with Al Qaeda. What is going on here?
A Pakistani official told the BBC Islamabad is working with Iran to find the guards, though it has no evidence yet that they are on its territory.
A group claiming to hold the men has said it wants to exchange them.
The statement, attributed to a group calling itself Jundallah or Soldiers of Allah, said it had abducted the guards from the Iranian border region of Saravan.
The group asked for the release of 16 of its members held by the Iranian authorities in exchange for the kidnapped officials.
Iran has not commented on the claim, which was aired on Saturday on Dubai-based Arabic TV station, Al Arabiya.
Pakistan's foreign ministry spokeswoman, Tasnim Aslam, told the BBC that Tehran had approached Islamabad and efforts were being made to locate the abducted Iranian security officials.
She said the two countries had excellent relations and had been regularly co-operating with each other in combating terrorism in the region.
However, she said, so far the Pakistani authorities had not been able to find any lead that would suggest that the abducted Iranian border guards were being kept somewhere in Pakistani territory.
Earlier, Iran's foreign ministry spokesman, Hamid Reza Asefi, said in Tehran that they have reason to believe that the abducted persons had been transferred to Pakistan.
He did not specify who the kidnappers were, but said interior ministry forces were also pursuing the issue.
In the past, al-Qaeda and its affiliates in Pakistan were not interested in targeting the country's rulers. Their struggle centered on the US and its interests, which they see as the main force in the occupation of Muslim territories. However, Musharraf's support for the US-led "war on terror" changed this, and they began to form small cells under the name of Jundullah, which randomly struck military targets or at targets that would undermine Musharraf's government. Several of these cells have been caught.